Home, sweet home

I have my last few days in Bangkok and with Ms Mason. It is an amazing place to stay, quirky, humid and full of contradictions. We spend our time shopping, meeting friends and trying to get taxi drivers to take us where we want to go. Taxis are cheap and plentiful but it depends on the driver as to whether he will take you to your destination. Sometimes he just doesn’t know where it is and Ms Mason has to direct him (and in Thai! I am so proud!). Sometimes he just doesn’t want to go there and laughs heartily at your suggestion. He might indicate traffic and say “no” on the basis that he doesn’t want to sit in it or that he doesn’t want to drive a longer distance. Unlike taxi drivers in London, they do not like long journeys as the meter does not make it worth their while. They do not like to turn around if they are driving in the opposite direction to your destination. And where taxi drivers do not wish to take you, tuk-tuk drivers will. I have only taken one tuk-tuk ride, simply because I find it such a struggle to get into one. There is a delightful pantomime where Ms Mason leaps aboard and then I realise I am unable to. The driver moves his tuk-tuk to the side of the kerb so I will have a step up but even then, it is a bit of a struggle. I manage to get in just before I think the driver is going to come round and haul me in manually. The Sky Train is wonderful – cool, clean and regular and a far cry from the Underground.

The trip home is interesting. My flight is at 10.10 in the morning which means a fairly early start. The condo where Ms Mason lives has lovely security people who summon a taxi very authoritatively and before I know it they have shown it where to park, stowed my luggage in the boot and opened the door for me to get in. No argument. On the way to the airport, the driver sticks an inhaler up his left nostril and leaves it there. A few minutes later, he swaps it to the other nostril and leaves it dangling. Ms Mason says this is quite common. At the check-in my luggage is just 1kg less than it was when I arrived so this is a relief, given all the lovely things I have bought. I wave sadly goodbye to Ms Mason, brush the tears away (seriously) and go through security which takes about 40 minutes. Waiting for my flight I eavesdrop on 2 English women who are returning home. They have awkward hand luggage which includes 2 parasols and they spend a lot of time fiddling about with it. The woman with over-bleached blonde hair says to her rather mousy companion “I’ve been inspired!” Just as I am wondering, her companion asks the very question I am pondering. “To do what?”  “If I’m asked to go to Vietnam, I’ll go! It’s only the next country over. It’ll be the same but I’ll see different things”. So very Thai. Same same, but different.

This time I do not have any children sitting next to me, behind me or in front of me on the flight to Muscat but passengers behave oddly. Firstly, the inspired woman and her companion take AGES to stow their bloody parasols causing huge tailback in the aisle. One of the aircrew helps them and they don’t even say “thank you”. I do dislike rudeness. When I get to my seat I find another man in it. He asks if he can have my aisle seat and puts me in the window so I hope I will not need to be jumping up and down to the bathroom. There is quite a bit of room on the flight, though, and once again, there are men shouting to each other all over the plane and changing seats like anything. As soon as we have eaten, they are seeking out empty rows of seats in the middle and laying down to sleep.

When we arrive in Oman, the air seems positively cool after Bangkok’s clammy heat. Again, our friends with the parasols cause chaos again, dropping bags everywhere and not thanking those who help. We queue patiently behind them while they faff about. Our flight back to Heathrow leaves almost immediately and this time I have chosen an aisle seat in a row of 4. 2 of the other seats are taken so there is a nice empty seat beside me where I can put my bag and have a bit of space. The leg room on Oman Air is really good, even though I am not blessed with height, but it means when the seat in front is tilted back, it does not invade my space so much. Although I have a family sitting in front, the woman is very considerate and checks if it is OK for her to tilt her seat back. The child must be around 5 and thinks it is really amusing, when his parents aren’t watching, to lean over the seat and tap the screen of the woman sitting behind him. As they are touch screens, he seems to be continually changing the film she is watching which must be annoying but she is very tolerant and doesn’t beat the crap out of him tell him off. The very tall man sitting behind me has, I think, learning difficulties. He keeps on stopping people who are walking past and speaking to them in Arabic. Well, I think it’s Arabic, anyway. Everyone he stops does not speak the same language and struggles to understand what he means. He then starts banging on the back of my seat and asking me the same question. I say patiently I don’t understand him and indicate he should ask one of the air crew who would be able to help and probably understand him. I put my headphones back on and no sooner done but he is tapping me on the arm and saying the same things. He can see I am frustrated and says “Bye bye!” in a loud, singsongy voice. He appears to be having lots of loud conversations on a mobile for the rest of the journey. Shortly before we touchdown, his parents appear from elsewhere in the plane and sit with him, settling him into his seat and putting his seatbelt on. As we are shuffling our way off the plane, I hear him talking to the air crew, thanking them and saying he will see them again in perfect English. Huh? I sense my initial diagnosis is correct.

Getting through passport control is swift and the bags come out quickly. I am so keen to see Mr Mason but when I get through customs, he is nowhere to be seen. I call him and find he is in a queue to park the car. He asks where I am. I don’t know any more than I am in Terminal 3 at Heathrow. Luckily he can see me and hurries over. Going to Bangkok represents the longest time I have ever been away from Mr Mason since 1978. I am so, so tired and know I won’t be able to eat when I get home. Travel always puts my stomach in turmoil. I manage to stay awake all the way home, telling him bits about the holiday and when I get indoors, I go upstairs to see for myself the decorating Mr Mason has been doing while I’ve been away. He looks rather dishevelled and has paint splatters on him but I don’t care. It was lovely to be away but it feels so good to get back home, too. And my bedroom is looking fabulous. If I told you how long it has been since it was decorated, you would never believe me. So I won’t.

Food, glorious food!

Hot on the heels of our monkey experience, Ms Mason has generously booked us 2 places on a food tour of Bangkok. We will get to sample an amazing number of dishes and visit lots of diffferent kinds of food outlet. This is exciting and I look forward to it eagerly. I look doe-eyed at Ms Mason and so she relents and lets us take a taxi instead of the skytrain. We find the appropriate exit and meet up with our guide, Puu, who is really friendly and enthusiastic about her subject. There are just 5 of us on the tour which makes for a nice intimate experience. We do introductions and I immediately forget everyone’s name except my own. Everyone else is going to be flying home except Ms Mason and I, and I really admire their spirit in indulging in a 4 hour food tour on the day they go home. I am sure I would be lying in a darkened room with a damp flannel over my eyes. But I digress (and I’m so good at it).

First we get to sample some little pastries from the curry puff vendor. This is street food in the shape of a tiny Cornish pasty but filled with a choice of taro, vegetable, potato, mushroom and something else I’ve forgotten. It is hot and delicious. From here we go to a curry paste shop. The pastes are made fresh daily and they will measure the exact quantity you need to make a meal.If you want to make a delicious massaman curry for 6, tell them and they will provide exactly what you need. The colours of the pastes are vibrant and gorgeous and the smell of the shop is comforting and spicy. Image

From here we go to a tea vendor. I opt for coffee and am pleasantly surprised when it arrives with lots of ice. I am not a big fan of condensed milk in drinks so was not looking forward to a hot coffee with it in but with ice, it was really refreshing and gave us a good pick up to continue on our tour. All the time, Puu tells us facts and information about the area, the things we are eating and drinking, the history and tradition. It’s really interesting and she is very likeable, too.

We go on next to sample some fishcakes from a stall. There is a small boy helping his Dad out and he is very serious about putting the fishcakes into a bag, even though that is not exactly what is wanted. Ours are really, really good. Far better than anything I have had at home. I have to apologise here to Puu for stealing some of her photographs. For some reason my laptop will not recognise the card from my camera so I have to steal hers from Dropbox. I am sure she will forgive me. You will also see why I had to steal some of them. This boy was so cute.


The Thai dessert shop is next on the list and I have to say, when Puu says there will be salted cocnut shrimp on the sticky rice I think “I am not going to like this”. Those who know me well know there are only 3 things I really cannot eat. Bananas (they make me sick), sweet coconut and marzipan. Nope. Not even to make someone smile. I just cannot bear them so the idea of coconut shrimps on a dessert just sounds plain wrong. Anyway, the dessert shop is cool and has comfortable chairs so we sit down and wait for our next treat. There is black sticky rice with coconut shrimp, sticky rice with custard, golden thread which looks like a bright, small version of Shredded Wheat and then 2 other golden drops. The final one we are advised to eat last to fully enjoy the taste. I plough into the black sticky rice first and do you know what? It is delicious. It’s sweet and savoury all in one go and I really like it. The rice desserts are my favourite. I am not too keen on the golden thread although it goes down a storm with some of the others. The golden drop is really an acquired taste and one I am not able to acquire at that precise moment. It is flavoured with jasmine, I believe, and is really not to my liking. However, that’s the first thing I haven’t enjoyed and we’re not halfway through the tour, yet.

Our next stop is to try some different fruits. We have mangosteen, rambutan and tamarind prepared for us. The tamarind is very date-like in its consistency and I don’t find it has a lot of flavour. The rambutan is lovely, though, and reminiscent of a lychee. The group’s favourite, however, is the mangosteen which is gorgeous. As Ms Mason can speak and understand a fair bit of Thai, she translates as we walk away that the fruit stall ladies are asking “Why didn’t they eat it all? What’s wrong with them?” I guess the reason is we have already had quite a lot to eat and know there is more to come. We walk to a small shop next which is Chinese and selling the usual Chinese dried sausages (delicious) and lots of different sauces. Puu tells us this shop has been in the same family for generations (I forget how many) but they produce herbal drinks which are designed to help different parts of the body recover. I choose one for a boost to my immune system. Unfortunately it is incredibly sweet and after one sip, i pass it on to Puu as I don’t want to waste it. Others have chosen perhaps more wisely and enjoy their drinks. The very exciting fact about this shop, however, is that this is where the brand Healthy Boy was created. We have Healthy Boy sauces back in our kitchen at home and use them all the time so I feel especially thrilled to stand where they were first created.Image

We then lurch onto a delicious lunch of roasted duck. The restaurant is already heaving downstairs so we climb upstairs and grab a table while there are still some available. We have duck 2 different ways with some broth and it is, obviously, delicious. I am running out of superlatives to use so you will understand that the food was really, really good. By now, I am feeling quite full but we still have 3 more food establishments to visit. It’s quite a good job that we’re walking in between as it helps me to feel less guilty when I am tucking into something outstanding. We force ourselves back out into the heat and go to a fried banana vendor. We have a choice of banana or sweet potato so I opt for the latter. It is sweet and tasty and full of starch and I can only finish half of mine.

The final 2 stops are, for me, the absolute highlights of the food element to our tour. Apart from eating and drinking, Puu takes us to alleyways and streets we would never normally go down, even if we knew they existed. There are parts where we are asked not to photograph people and we are privileged to see their homes as we saunter by. We also see an old cinema, now boarded up. The glass and typography speak of the 1930’s and Puu tells us they used to show silent films there, complete with a band to play along. Later, as things progressed, the cinema ran into a decline and in order to perk up sales, they showed silent X rated films, instead. No band playing along this time although I like to think a trombone would have been able to make a comedy of it all.

So we go to the Somtam restaurant. We have already been told that in Thailand, it is considered polite to say you are going to pick a flower when you need the toilet. This restaurant is a good place to pick a flower! It is absolutely packed with hungry people devouring the 29 types of somtam available on the menu. I am particularly pleased about this because I tried to order somtam a few nights before but they didn’t have it. We are trying it just 2 ways. For those of you not familiar with somtam, it is a spicy salad made with papaya and utterly delicious. The crunch and flavour is refreshing and makes you feel you are eating something which is not only tasty but good for you. The other kind of somtam comes fried which is also good but I prefer the original. Image

2 members of our party have to leave at this point as they need to go to the airport, so there are just 3 of us to head to our final destination. This last restaurant was opened by a Princess of Thailand who handed it on to her son. It is very different from the very busy place we have just left. It is hushed inside and there are linen tablecloths. The chairs are a little strange. Not one of us can touch the floor while we are sitting in them so we all sit, like giant babies, waiting for our food. When it comes, it is divine. I have to say it is the best green curry I have ever eaten anywhere. The flavour is incomparable and it is well worth a visit just to sample the curry although I expect the rest of their food is up to the same standard.

Finally, we stagger out into the sunshine, absolutely stuffed full with fabulous food. Puu will not leave us until we have been put into a taxi and on our way home. I feel I cannot really do justice to the day. The experience has exceeded my expectations and we have drunk with our eyes and ears as well as our mouths. It highlights what contrasts there are in Bangkok – that we could be in a small alleyway with poor housing just behind a bustling street full of high tech gadgets and shops. The tour has been about food but also about so much more and I would highly recommend it. If you want to go with the same people, they are at www.tasteofthailandfoodtours.org Image

Don’t monkey with Miss Mason

Since arriving in Bangkok, I have been busy. On Sunday we go to the weekend market and shop for clothes for Dog. Mr Mason and all concerned will be pleased that there are not any suitable garments in Dog’s size. We think briefly about buying him a jeans and t-shirt combo bearing the legend ‘I ❤ Hip Hop’ but feel it would not have many outings, particularly if Mr Mason has anything to do with it. There is a quilted coat which looks quite cosy but not large enough. There is also a fluffy towelling dressing gown which we think would do perfectly for those after-bath moments but on closer inspection, we see it is just a small dressing gown, probably meant for a child and decide not to buy it on principle.

Monday evening sees us at a fabulous bar on top of a skyscraper. We arrive in time to grab a seat on the rooftop bar on the 61st floor and have a couple of cocktails while watching the sun go down. The bar is busy and the view is fantastic although not one for the faint-hearted or Mr Mason. He would particularly not like this bar as while we are enjoying ourselves, we feel the building swaying. We busily discuss the merits of making buildings in this way so that they stay upright during earthquakes and inclement weather, little knowing that the swaying we feel is actually an earthquake which began in the Chiang Rai area. It is so disappointing to realise I have felt my first earthquake but thought it was a particularly gusty bit of wind.

Today we set off early to go to Lopburi in search of the monkeys. We take a taxi to the train station where the monks have their own roped-off enclosure. Once on the train, we are greeted by a woman who thrusts a tray of food at each of us. It contains chicken noodle soup, mackerel in a chilli sauce and a bowl of rice. I am not sure whether this is included in the ticket or not, having been fooled by a wily old man on a train in Thailand before. However, everyone around us starts eating so we do, too. A big black sack is then passed around and people put their rubbish into it. It all seems very organised. The sky looks very black in places as we travel and it seems as though more rain is on the cards. Why did we leave the umbrellas on the coffee table? By the time we get to Lopburi, however, the sky has cleared and the sun is hot. The air feels less humid, too. We decline the offers of rickshaw drivers who shout “Monkeys! Monkeys!” at us. Well, not at us in that way. We walk down the road and after a couple of minutes we see the first one. A macaque, strolling across the road apparently without a care in the world. There are others lined up in front of shops and cafes. We cross the road to go into the Khmer Temple, Prang San Yot, pay the man at the gate and walk into a macaque wonderland.

The first to draw our attention are the baby macaques. They are tiny and simply adorable with little tufts of hair on their head and huge eyes. They hang off their mothers and babysitters in casual ways, wrapping themselves around with their long limbs and tail. We try to admire the temple as it is apparently a rare example but we can’t help look at the macaques. After just a few minutes, the first makes a kind of kamikaze leap onto Miss Mason. It is shortly joined by another and they examine her closely while I take photographs. She does the obligatory monkey selfie (although I have to say, Bangkok is a selfie obsessed city) and then one decides to try his luck on me. We have no food on us so we think we are relatively safe. This one lands on my shoulder and decides my earring is just right for pinching so it does. Miss Mason sees it and tries to retrieve it but it is up and off before we know it. I decide to put the other one in my pocket for safe-keeping. We are assaulted by macaques on all sides so we move a little away. The man selling peanuts to feed them has more luck with a Japanese couple who come in and immediately are beset by the monkeys. We know this because we hear her scream. A little while later I am joined by another macaque who thinks it will be fun to steal an earring. At this point, confusion reigns. Miss Mason indulges in what can only be described as a monkey fight in an attempt to retrieve my earring and we are not sure who has won when suddenly the earring goes shooting up into the air and the monkey makes a dash for it. We look on the ground and cannot see it. It’s 2-0 to the monkey. There is a sudden contretemps between a couple of the females and we see one trying to run along with a baby under each arm. Another couple of females bear down on her and prize a baby away which runs to the side of the pursuer. I think we may have seen a case of macaque kidnapping. In between stealing things from us and each other, our hairy little chums try tasting us to see if we are worth eating. A couple of them do an experimental bite to see if anything dislodges but I am clearly too big to eat. It licks a bit and then bites a little harder in case I am just plain old tough. After a few experimental bites, we have had enough and leave the macaques to their playing. Later, while having a drink at a local cafe, she feels something down the back of her top. This turns out to be a mangled pearl earring. I think at least I will be able to make a pendant out of it and put it safely in my bag.

Our journey back to Bangkok we do by minibus. The minibus cannot leave unless it is full and when it is full, there isn’t an inch to move. As we leave Lopburi, the skies darken and the rain begins to fall – and fall and fall. The roads turn into rivers and the amount of water being thrown up by the minibus is huge. We slide and aquaplane our way back to the city at top speed while the minibus springs a leak at the back and drips onto Miss Mason who tries to plug the hole with a bunch of tissues. By the time we get back to Bangkok, the skies have cleared and the rain has stopped. The air seems to have cleared a little, too. Back in the flat, I check in my pockets for tissues to throw away and tucked in a corner I find an un-mangled earring. This means the earring thief, having stolen one, came back with it, presumably to steal another. The monkey fight we thought Miss Mason has lost suddenly becomes a triumph of human over macaque. I would like to say at this point that she did a little celebratory dance but she was a bit too tired. Instead, I can give you a flavour of what her fight looked like.

Tales from Bangkok

I am on a trip to Bangkok, to check in with Miss Mason and see how the wedding preparations are coming on. Checking in at Heathrow, there is no queue but the people in front of me have an inconsolable baby who screams in real distress for what seems ages. Of course, this child is seated directly in front of me when we board and, yes, it screams pretty much all the way to Oman where we change planes. It must be horrible travelling with very small children so I don’t feel it is anyone’s fault but I would like to point out I am a magnet for small, screaming children on aircraft. Never sit near me. The passage through Muscat airport is easy enough. As we go through a security check which insists our lotions and potions are displayed in clear plastic, I discover a bottle of Coke which has mysteriously made its way through security unharmed and, indeed, undetected. The woman checking us through says our flights are at the gate and that we should all hurry. We all duly hurry only to be met by another man who insists we are not allowed down the stairs to any of the gates and tells everyone to ‘wait here’, waving his arm expansively. I go and sit by some Arab women, asking one if I may sit by her. She pats the seat and I sit, only for her to start asking me questions in a language I not only don’t understand but can’t identify. She has a lovely face and asks her questions so nicely only to be met with me grinning inanely. She does the tried-and-tested English method of asking her questions more slowly and a bit louder but it has no effect. We smile, because that’s the only language we share. A short while later, the man controlling the escalator down is side-tracked by someone asking a complicated question. I wonder if other travellers have conspired in this ruse because he is drawn away from his post and hordes of people pour down the stairs, myself included. My Arab friend calls after me,  saying “Have a good trip” or possibly “Up yer bum”.

Havind made it to the elusive ground floor, I find myself a chair and sit like I am glued to it. More people come down and then, suddenly in our midst is the Guardian of the Stairs. He is apoplectic that we have let ourselves through his grasp and shouts really loudly at people to go back upstairs. I am sitting pretending I don’t know what is going on (which I am naturally very good at) and so I stay put. There is a flight to Calcutta leaving shortly and the people queueing for that flight get very short shrift from him. Of course, sitting at the gate is a man in full Arab clothing with a small, screaming child. This time they are seated behind me. I am eyeing up the seats across the aisle from me when they are occupied by a group of men including a dwarf. Given Miss Mason’s passion for dwarves this is good positioning but this dwarf is rude and surly, drinking himself into a mild state of chaos and being rude to the air crew. He is jumping on the seats and throwing things about. At some point the dwarf and his companions are drawn into conversation by the man sitting in my row. He is on his way for a holiday in Bangkok and they tell him they are oil workers. I find myself wondering what work a dwarf would do on a rig. It’s not a sizeist thing but I suppose there are lots of jobs, really. Maybe he’s in IT or something. Anyway, he’s a very rude dwarf.

We get off and head to immigration where we have to wait for some time. I have smugly filled in my visa application whilst on the plane but I still have to wait ages. Eventually I am through and retrieve my bag which seems to weigh a ton. I had a mild fit when I weighed the bag at home. The airline allows 30kg of baggage which is really good and I had offered to bring Miss Mason’s wedding dress amongst other things. Oh, and a huge amount of Cadbury’s, for Mr Safaie. When I weigh it at home, it seems to weigh nearly 60 kg and I am in a bit of a panic. After a bit of scrambling around, though, I realise the scales weigh pounds and kilos and that I have been reading the wrong number. Equilibrium and sanity restored. After coming through Customs, I look for Miss Mason’s dear little face but it is nowhere to be seen. Having checked my phone would be able to roam, I am rather frustrated to find it will neither text nor call. After some minutes, I decide to walk down through the airport to the meeting point but before I get there I see there is another gate for people to come through and she is waiting there for me. Relief. And a lovely sight.

The woman with three breasts

I am a freak. I now have a choice of breasts to wear. Well, in truth, I have had one silicone prosthesis AND a swimming prosthesis since last Spring so the three breasts bit, written to lure you in, is not strictly true. I have 2 silicone and the swimming breast and none of them seems to be me. Obviously they are not me in actuality but they don’t seem to look like me. It surprised me how much a breast is supposed to weigh. They are not light and delicate things. There is also something strange about going into a room with someone who is trying to match you up so that your frontage doesn’t look lopsided. Janine, my fitter, is very nice and agrees my current prosthesis is not doing the job and tries me with several before she is happy. I have to quietly confess that I don’t see much difference but she is thorough and is pleased with the result. She also finds me a bra which seems to fit better than some of the others I have experimented with so I buy that and then take away a phone number which I can ring and order them at a discount if I quote her name. Bras for prostheses are pretty dire, though, and do nothing for my shape. In the room there is a cupboard full of boxes of breasts. Quite surreal. I am reminded to treat my breast like my own. I shower with it and if it gets a scratch, a plaster will help stop the silicone from leaking out. I am also supposed to put it away in its box at night, as though I am putting it to bed. This, I think, is a step too far and it will have to take its chances on the top of my chest of drawers. Toughen up, silicone breast. This is the real world.

In other news, I am going to go to Bangkok to see Miss Mason and Mr Safaie so I can pretend to help out with wedding arrangements whilst having a nice holiday. Miss Mason has had a few setbacks in the wedding dress department. A svelte size 10, she has gone to a few bridal shops in Bangkok thinking she will try on styles of dress before having one made, only to be met with cries of “No! No! We don’t do fat dresses!” Thai women are so slight that even a slim European size 10 is considered fat and, being Thai and straight talking, they have no hesitation in telling her she is fat. Stuffing herself into tiny size 4 and 6 dresses is a depressing task so she has been looking at styles on the internet and they have been pinging back and forth between us as she chooses the final design. No wonder she is drinking pints of gin and tonic. It is not until I have booked my flight that I consider what I have done and I think it demonstrates that I truly am an optimist. Or else I am impulsive. One of the two. I book my flight with excitement and think about all the things we will do together. Later on, it occurs to me that I have booked a flight to a country which is in a state of turmoil at present. Just last week someone threw a grenade into a shopping centre and some children were killed. They were not the first child casualties of the political turmoil, either. I do not consider the possibility of being blown up or shot when I book. Just a thought.

And finally, we are not speaking to Dog. He has been a very bad dog and is consequently sent to Coventry which is a severe punishment for a pack animal. Mr Mason drops me off at Charing Cross Hospital on Wednesday so I can go to my weekly Maggie’s meeting. After this, he drives to Tesco to buy a few essentials such as cat and dog food. Dog is not allowed out to do his customary wee there. Dog always likes to get out at Tesco and wee in a corner of the car park. It does not matter if he only had a wee five minutes before. Weeing in Tesco’s car park is an essential component of the Dog experience and on this occasion, he is denied it. This, we think, enrages him, together with the fact that there are no squirrels to chase in the park. Dog thinks he has been hard done by and will not come back to have his lead on. He decides the best thing to do is run out of the park, crossing the busy road and prance about with a massive adrenalin surge telling him to run in and out of the traffic coming to a halt in the middle of the road. Mr Mason follows him in a sort of  stoic rage and eventually lures him so he can put his lead on. I suspect at this point there may have been some swearing but I was not there so cannot comment. You must fill in the dots yourself.

When I arrive home, Dog rushes to meet me but with slightly less fervour than usual. I do not greet him. I do not say “It’s the incredible jumping Dog!” as I usually do as he launches himself at me on just two feet (Dog is on just two feet – I am always on two feet unless something has toppled me). I go to the postbox without saying “See you in a little while” which is the signal I am coming back. He worries and frets and casts covert glances at me. Mr Mason goes out on the town to see the band of a friend’s daughter. Oh, how old that makes us sound! He leaves without saying “Goodbye” to Dog. Dog sleeps in his basket quietly and when I tell him to come and have a wee before I go to bed, he does so quietly and without fuss. I go to bed and leave him on his own. In the morning we don’t greet him. I don’t say “Good morning” which is the signal that he can come and see me in bed. He skulks about, disconsolate. The door into the breakfast room which can be a source of terror for him if it is not fully open becomes one he can easily slip through, so desperate is he to please us and have amicable relations restored. Mr Mason and I go out to the shops and Dog stares with his prize-winning sad eyes at us through the window. As soon as he has successfully come back to the lead on his walk, we can be friends again. The risks of him getting killed outweigh the distress the temporary withdrawal of contact makes. Many moons ago, when Dog was quite a bit younger, he failed to come back to the lead. I think I may have told this story already but I really feel it is worth repeating. Mr Mason, after trying many times to capture the very speedy Dog, lay down on the path in the park and whimpered, feigning illness. Dog, being curious, came up to see what was the matter whereupon he was caught and Mr Mason was able to stand up and cough a few times whilst ignoring the stares of astounded onlookers. He has not repeated this obviously successful technique, no matter how many times I ask him. Spoilsport.

Enduring jury duty and postal woes

Things are conspiring to make me jolly cross. You may remember the Christmas parcel sent to Miss Mason which got as far as Belfast and then lingered, doing nothing. Well, it made its way back to us rather than proceed on its way to Thailand. It came with a nice letter, telling me off for putting offending articles in a parcel – in this case some Paul Smith aftershave, intended for Mr Safaie – but without the aftershave which, I imagine, some of the postal workers in Belfast now smell of. All the presents were ripped open and so Mr Mason sealed them all up again and we took the parcel back to the post office we posted it at originally. One piece of good news on the horizon was that it cost less to post this time as it was a couple of hundred grammes lighter. Instead of paying to send it again, we actually got a refund and the parcel is now on its way to Bangkok. Forgive me if you know the story thus far.

I duly told Ms Mason her Christmas presents were finally on the move and she rubbed her hands together and looked forward to opening them with something like glee. Then fate stepped in. Although it hasn’t been reported in the British tv media, there has been a lot of trouble in Bangkok with protests and, more recently, bombings. Some people have been shot and it seems there are water cannon and rubber bullets being deployed with great abandon. Yesterday, it was announced that there would be a State of Emergency declared with effect from this morning. Well that’s just brilliant. First of all British postal services wouldn’t take the parcel and now Thailand is doing everything possible to prevent its delivery. Does Miss Mason not deserve her new knickers and nail files? She has actually got more than that but I don’t want to give the game away entirely. I do enjoy buying things for the offspring. It’s lovely to do all the things that I didn’t experience when I was a child/young adult/adult with my parents. But really, Bankok! What appalling timing!

So today has been day 3 of jury service. I am starting to get to know my fellow jurors, some of whom are lovely and some slightly unhinged. In the jury room in general, amongst all the jurors for all 13 courts, there seems to be a large preponderance of Daily Mail readers which depresses me. There is also a man many people tell me smells of vodka. This is very specific and I suspect is the opinion of people who don’t drink alcohol, or certainly not spirits. I haven’t been close enough to check for myself but I may give it a whirl tomorrow morning. I overhear people discussing Benefit Street, a tv series about a road in Birmingham which has a large number of benefit recipients living in it. There are some sad examples of child rearing by a couple who are not out of their teens but already have 2 children and scant understanding of how to bring them up. Swearing and foul language abound. It just underlines the fact that some people haven’t had great examples of how to behave, live or raise children and might require some support or extra input in order to help them become good and useful citizens as well as raise children who are both happy and with aspirations. I don’t think it says anything particularly terrible about the people who live there but it provides much fodder for those who like to find people worse of than themselves and point to them as examples of what not to do. Adler had some great ideas about society and community and occasionally I find it soothing to read his ideas of training children and involving the whole community.

I have to say it is an interesting if not exhausting week. I am not used to regular morning starts. When I work, it is often from home and does not require getting up at 7.30. I know, I know; the rest of you are all out there, buzzing around and working like demons all day every day but I am not made of such stern stuff and find it all too much. My rock’n’roll lifestyle is such that I have been in bed before 9pm on both days so far. Tomorrow is the fourth day of the trial I am sitting on and it is proving very interesting and illuminating but alas, I cannot tell you more.

Here’s an extra special hello to all the people from outside the UK who read my blog. I love looking at the readership, broken down by country and wonder how you all find it. Do stop by to say hello!